Photo Credit: Bobby Bonsey photography
Page one of the program for the Lindy Focus 2016 swing festival is a welcome letter from the organizers Michael and Jaya to the participants. Most people I'm sure skipped right through it to get to the schedule and other logistical information. That would be a mistake. I was reading it on the plane ride home from Focus and started tearing up.
I have reproduced it in full below because its just so damn perfect and amazing. I recommend that at the gateway to the new year that you read this and take it to heart. I know I will be revisiting this text time and time again all through the year, and beyond:
Let's cut right to the chase: the world desperately needs art right now, and that means it needs you. National studies show that arts education is in a state of major decline (especially dance programs), and social/political tension are uncommonly high. Both of those things point to the need to cultivate the uniquely human act of decorating time and space with art. Art elevates us and those around us, and you are called to participate.
You might attend dance events because they are social gathering places, they encourage exercise, they serve as entertainment, or countless other very valid reasons. But perhaps you have not gone so far as to consider yourself an artist. You are now encouraged to actively seek that identity. You might have some joy to bring the world that has not yet been seen. Though these individual contributions may seem small, collected in their entirety they represent a scene, a movement, a meaningful force that can push against darkness and division.
Maybe though, you've already made this leap and actively pursue personal and community growth through your art – whether it's dance, music or something else. If so, thank you. Thank you for your audacity in daring to be a creator and for the countless hours of work you've already put in. Are you ready to keep going? We hope so. Because the need for your efforts is not going anywhere – if anything, it's growing every day. We need people sharing the collective exuberance of music. We need people teaching the life-changing skills of improvising, of moving with intention, of consensual touch given in celebration. Again, thank you for what you've done. Please continue.
During this Lindy Focus, observe the continuum of the artists that surround you. In enjoying the work of the masters here, take a moment to imagine the scared young dancer or musician afraid to perform for the first time or struggling to maintain a personal practice. On witnessing the arrival of new people, don't fail to imagine where their journey might take them and that you might be taking a class from them someday.
Finally, a lot of people have worked very hard to make and events like this happen – but now it's your work that will make it all mean something. Let's get to it!
Michael & Jaya
Amen. Let's decorate time and space with art, people. I'm all in for 2017.
POSTSCRIPT: I stupidly used a photo without crediting the source, the incredibly talented Bobby Bonsey Photography. <facepalm>. Sorry, Bobby!